3 Marvelous Markets in Provence
Let me first clarify that I am in love with France and the French simpler way of life. It is where I dream of being one day. Without a doubt one of the best things to do in Provence is to visit the markets. It doesn’t matter, big or small; this is where you can really enjoy the French way of life.
The market at L’Isle-sur-la Sorque
One of the largest markets in the area is held every Sunday at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The epitome of the Provençal markets it is as picturesque as it is lively. Held in the town centre along the banks of the beautiful Sorgue River it is bursting at the seams with vendors. Along both sides of the street the centuries old plane trees provide the much needed shade. The Sorgue River is so crystal clear and clean that you can see the deep green vegetation dancing to the flow of the river current; the images of the buildings gliste on the surface.
Voices ring out as eager town’s people and tourists flock to the market for the best pick of the day. The stalls are piled high with fruits and vegetables; you can actually smell the strawberries before you see them. What a sight to see the table piled high with baskets of the biggest, juiciest, reddest strawberries ever, and they are oh so delicious. The same can be said for the Cavaillon melons, named for the only region they grow in. And then on the next table you find huge wheels of cheese being sliced for tasting by the quintessential French men in their crisp white aprons. Fresh black and green olives, homemade saucisson and meats of all kinds, sizes and shapes tempt customers. Intertwined among the food vendors you will find other vendors offering beautiful silk scarves, exquisite fabrics made into tablecloths, napkins, tea towels and bedding that you will only find in France. Local artists are on hand with their creations. The antiques market is well known and is the second largest in all of France next to Paris. Here you will find brocante of all kinds—fine china to furniture and fine artwork.
The market at St. Saturnin-les-Apts
The village of St. Saturnin-les-Apt holds a market every Tuesday. It is one of the smaller markets in the area; small and quaint it provides a very different experience. The big white and yellow umbrellas all sizes and shapes set up in the early morning along the main street and central square. Here you will find all the fresh food stands, fruits and vegetables, cheese, olives, bread, seafood and chickens. Every market has its own unique chicken guy. You can see the chickens on the rotisserie with the potatoes at the bottom. As the chicken cooks to a beautiful golden brown the potatoes are cooked to perfection in the chicken fat, filling the entire area with an aroma that one can’t resist. Now this would cause any health conscious Canadian to cringe, but you have to try it, it is oh so good. At all of the markets in the area you will find the lavender vendors. If you happen to visit in July or August you will see lavender in full bloom everywhere in the Luberon. The distinct purple color, the texture and scent are all encompassing. At the market buy lavender fresh, dried in sachets or by the bag full, made into soap and lotions. There is no mistaking it’s heavenly aroma.
The market at Bonnieux
Bonnieux, a quintessential village of 1400, holds a market every Friday. It starts at the bottom of the hill by the “new” church, continues up the hill and spills out into the big square atop above the church. Starting at the bottom of the hill you find the basket vendor. Imagine ten meters of baskets, all shapes and sizes in the most vibrant bright yellows, greens, reds and purples, a sight to behold. Next in line up the street is “The Hat Guy” who’s sells the most alluring and charming Panama hats for both men and women. All hats are handmade from natural fibers are exquisite. At the top of the hill you will find the fruit and vegetables, the delectable strawberries, luscious melons, all picked fresh, and the most succulent vegetables you can imagine. The display of purple garlic was quite a sight. But my personal favorite is the man selling cherries. He is the embodiment of a market vendor in his casquette with his huge smile and loud voice smiling and greeting everyone who passes by. He is a local farmer outside of Bonnieux and sells whatever is in season at the time be it cherries, strawberries or courgettes. You will find him at several of the markets throughout the area as you will many of the other vendors.
The markets provide the local residents with their provisions for the day or the week. But they also provide a wonderful sense of camaraderie, a sense of pride and belonging. The local cafes fill to the brim as the local residents and visitors gather to greet one another, swap stories and catch up on all the latest gossip. This is what the markets are all about…